OSU POLICE SEIZE COMPUTER AS ORDERED TO BY THE RIAA....A 19-year-old resident of Willham Complex had his computer confiscated by the Oklahoma State University police earlier this week on suspicion of illegally distributing copyrighted material.
Police were notified of the problem after the Recording Industry Association of America, an organization that protects copyrights of recording artists, notified OSU’s Computer Information Services that one of their service users was running a Web site that was illegally distributing copyrighted songs.
The OSU Police Department is currently pursuing the case as a violation of state law.
OSU Police served the student with a search warrant around 5 p.m. on Sept. 5. The student’s computer and related equipment were seized and are currently undergoing forensic exams. The results of the exams will determine if charges will be filed against the student.
Lt. David Altman of the OSU Police Department said if the crimes are confirmed the police have many options.
“If crimes are confirmed then we decide whether to file the case as a misdemeanor or as a felony, or turn it over to the Payne County District Attorney to file — all based on what we uncover,” Altman said.
Altman said the tests may take a long time to complete.
“This may take up to a month because of the large amount of stored material that must be examined,” he said.
James Alexander, assistant director of CIS and head of technical services, said a significant amount of material was seized.
“It was 40 gigabytes, which probably represents 1,000 albums,” Alexander said. “Let’s say each song is six (megabytes), and that’s high end. That’s like 6,600 songs.”
Alexander said the RIAA notified OSU of the problem two weeks ago.
“They notified us both by fax and by e-mail that there was an individual on campus distributing copyrighted material,” Alexander said.
Once OSU was contacted, Alexander said the identity of the computer user and exact room number were known within five minutes.
“(The RIAA) knew an Internet provider address,” he said. “We know where all the network addresses are attached to so we know exactly which room, and what port in each room that all of the network addresses are attached to.”
Alexander said RIAA contacted OSU because the college was the Internet service provider for the person who ran the Web site.
“OSU is basically what’s called an ISP, an Internet service provider, and we’re providing services to the campus which causes us to have a certain responsibility that we must fulfill,” he said.
“Just like an ISP like Ionet, they have a responsibility if one of their users is distributing copyrighted material — they fall under exactly the same law that OSU does and if they are notified that somebody is distributing copyrighted material they must take action,” he said.
OSU is required by law to put a stop to illegal distribution of copyrighted materials, and if it does not, then it could be sued by the association, Alexander said.
Alexander said although this student was not profiting from his Web site, the penalties for doing so are steep.
“If they are profiting from it, that’s a very important thing because then not only is it copyright but it’s misuse of a state network because all of this infrastructure is provided by the state of Oklahoma for educational purposes,” Alexander said. “And if someone benefits personally from it, then it rises to a new level and almost always we take those instances to the police.”
Alexander said OSU does not actively scan students’ computers for copyrighted materials.
“We are not Big Brother, we are not a censor, but we won’t turn a blind eye to it,” he said. “Anytime it’s brought to our attention, we have to act on it.”
Alexander explained why the student’s actions were illegal.
“What it comes down to is anytime you make a copy of a copyrighted material and give it to another person — not giving them the original but giving them the copy — it’s illegal because you are depriving that artist or company of the royalties, their payment for that property,” he said.
Alexander also said it is not a question of right or wrong.
“Some people think that illegal drug usage, there’s nothing wrong with it, and that’s not the question here — it’s a question merely of whether it’s legal or not legal.”
“Most people think that probably sharing those things is innocent and OK and fine, but it’s illegal, it’s a felony,” he said.
The punishment for distributing copyrighted material can be costly.
“If a company was prosecuting under federal law for copyright violation the fines are up to $150,000 per incident. They can be expelled from school, they can be sued by the company for loss of their profits, loss of income, the consequences can be very, very severe,” he said.
Altman said computer crimes are not new at OSU.
“There is no doubt the number of incidence of computer crimes is increasing all over the country, more rapidly in college campuses because of the knowledge and training the people have,” he said.
Alexander said he also has noticed more incidents.
“I would say in the last 18 months the number of incidents we’ve had has gone up almost exponentially,” he said. “We have serious offenses about three a semester where the police get involved.”
Alexander said the kinds of incidents occur are varied. “We have had instances, and this is not one of them, I want to make that clear, where we’ve had people distributing movies, software, music, selling ads to pornographic sites all off their Web pages out of the residence halls,” he said. “They were advertising themselves widely.”
Alexander said his advice to students is simple.
“What it comes down to is, don’t distribute copyrighted material, don’t be an entrepreneur and try to find ways to make money by using the network that OSU provides,” he said. “We just want the students to successfully graduate from the university and have an excellent experience here.”
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